Automobiles are vehicles that are designed for travel on land and can be powered by a gasoline, diesel or alternative fuel engine. The word is derived from French automobile, which means self-moving (auto) and Latin mobilius, meaning mobile (mobil). There are many different types of automobiles. They can be divided into passenger, cargo and special cars (such as fire, sanitary, mobile crane, refrigerator or infantry fighting vehicles). Each of them has its own characteristics, technical parameters and purpose. Annually, 5 – 59 million various cars are produced all over the world. The majority of them are manufactured in Japan, USA, France, Republic of Korea, China and Germany.

Historically, the development of modern automobiles reflects the rise of the industrial society and the changes in human behavior. The automobile revolutionized the social structure of the human race, as it enabled people to move and travel more easily and independently. It also increased personal freedom and the number of possible employment possibilities. The automobile also created new industries and services. For example, demand for vulcanized rubber skyrocketed because it was needed to make the tires of automobiles. Road construction also exploded as a result of the automobile revolution.

The scientific and technical building blocks of the modern automobile were laid in the late 1600s by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens, who invented a type of internal combustion engine sparked by gunpowder. However, it was not until the invention of the gasoline engine in the 1860s and ’70s that the first practical and marketable automobile became available to the general public.

Although the automobile revolutionized life in many ways, it also brought about problems and hazards. The high unit profits that Detroit manufacturers made on the sale of gas-guzzling “road cruisers” came at a cost to the environment, with higher levels of air pollution and a drain on dwindling world oil reserves. The quality of American cars also deteriorated, as engineers subordinated engineering to nonfunctional styling.

In the mid-20th century, automotive technology shifted from traditional internal-combustion engines to hybrid and electrical vehicles. In the future, these trends are expected to continue, as society shifts away from using fossil fuels. The next step for the automobile industry will be developing autonomous cars that can operate without a driver. These vehicles are undergoing research and testing by companies such as Google and General Motors. The future of automobiles will depend on the successful development of these vehicles, which may eventually replace the traditional internal-combustion engine. This will be an important step in reducing the environmental impact of the automobile and moving toward a sustainable society. In addition, the development of new technologies will help reduce energy consumption and costs. In the long term, this could lead to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants. This, in turn, will help to slow climate change.